Biden expected in Asia, North Korea's nuclear shadow looms over his trip

Sylvie Claire / May 20, 2022

On the eve of U.S. President Joe Biden's departure for a much-anticipated diplomatic tour of Asia, the United States believes there is a real possibility that North Korea could conduct another missile launch or a nuclear test. We are prepared for all eventualities, including such a provocation while we are in South Korea or Japan, said Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser. We are coordinating closely with our allies in South Korea and Japan, he added, saying he also mentioned the risk during a meeting Wednesday with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.
We are obviously prepared to adjust, if necessary, our military posture to ensure that we provide defense and deterrence for our allies in the region, Biden said.
Satellite images indicate that North Korea is preparing to conduct a nuclear test, and the United States and South Korea have been warning for weeks that the test could occur at any time.
Under international sanctions, North Korea has dramatically increased its missile tests this year, while ignoring U.S. proposals for negotiations.
It is thus under this threat that Joe Biden will begin on Thursday his first trip to Asia since he became president, he who promised to make this continent the top strategic priority of his mandate.
The 79-year-old Democrat, for whom the confrontation between the United States and China will be the major geopolitical issue of the years to come, will travel to South Korea and then to Japan. He will meet with the leaders of both countries and will take advantage of his trip to participate in a meeting of the Quad in Tokyo, a diplomatic format that he is keen to revive and that brings together the United States, Japan, India and Australia.
But the U.S. president will not go to the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, assured his spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre. The last visit of a U.S. president to this place is still remembered: Donald Trump had visited in 2019 and met Kim Jong Un there. But the effusions between the two men did not have a long-term impact on the relationship between the United States and North Korea. The North Korean leader has always used the nuclear weapon to weigh in on the international scene.
The temptation could be great for him to proceed with a demonstration of North Korea's nuclear capabilities, as he faces a worsening coronavirus epidemic, with the number of cases now exceeding 1.7 million according to the official press. Several experts believe that a nuclear test could help divert public attention from the epidemic.
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